Waivers and the 2014-15 Roster

If you follow @TPLHockey on Twitter, you’ve no doubt noticed that I’m one of the more outspoken critics of the way that this current Red Wings team has been assembled, and the arguable mismanagement of the roster — and the way that the younger players have been handled — the last few off-seasons. I’m not going to get into details of those matters here, because it’s in the past and — on the whole — this team is the cream of the league and has been for decades. While I don’t think the moves have been good ones, they’re over and done with and there’s no point in stomping feet and holding breath until we turn purple.

Instead, let’s look forward — what we can expect in the year(s) following.

In order to do so, we must first look at what’s guaranteed. The following players have one-way contracts with the Red Wings for the 2014-15 season (and in many cases, far beyond), barring the team using their second compliance buyout. Ignore the line matches.

FORWARDS
Zetterberg :: Datsyuk :: Nyquist
Franzen :: Weiss :: Tatar (RFA)
Abdelkader :: Helm :: ____
Tootoo :: Andersson :: Miller
13: ____
14: ____

DEFENSEMEN
Kronwall :: Ericsson
DeKeyser (RFA) :: Kindl
Smith :: Lashoff
7: ____

GOALTENDERS
Howard
____

—-

So, as you can see — we’re three forwards (four if Tootoo is waived and demoted again, or bought out), one defenseman, and a backup goaltender away from a complete 23-man roster.

Is it unreasonable to expect that ALL of the free agents will not be re-signed? The answer, of course, is yes. Yes, it is. I’m sure that some of the following players will be given new deals… but remember, the more of them that are brought back, the fewer waiver-eligible players will be given a chance to make the Red Wings.

FORWARDS
Daniel Alfredsson
Todd Bertuzzi
Dan Cleary
Patrick Eaves
Cory Emmerton (RFA, but may be granted outright UFA status)
Mikael Samuelsson

DEFENSEMEN
Kyle Quincey

GOALTENDERS
Jonas Gustavsson

Is there anything glaring about this list? Taking it from the top, let’s check out the likelihoods of return tours of service.

Daniel Alfreddson – a very pleasant surprise on the season, but still a 40-something throwback to the old Red Wings Way. If the Wings continue their youth movement, he may not be brought back, but he’s certainly played well enough and has fit in perfectly. Perhaps he takes one of those forward slots.

Todd Bertuzzi – surprisingly durable the last few years, he’s a very valuable member of the current forward corps. That said, he’s a 38-year-old power forward with plenty of miles on that back, those legs, and that brain. If he decides to hang them up, it’ll be his decision, but if he wants to keep playing, he’ll very likely be a Red Wing again.

Dan Cleary – in what was the most over-analyzed signing in recent memory, Cleary’s one-year pact was supposed to be a bridge to a longer-term extension after turning down a multi-year deal from the Flyers. A favorite of Coach Mike Babcock, he has yet to prove he has a place on the current team and is honestly the most likely candidate to be the next one waived when players come back from injury. Given the disaster of a season he’s having, it’s hard to imagine that management would bring him back barring a 180-degree turnaround.

Patrick Eaves – fair to say that he’ll be given his walking papers, free to sign elsewhere where he’ll have a better chance of staying in the NHL. And he deserves that, frankly.

Cory Emmerton – technically a restricted free agent, I can’t imagine the Wings would send him a qualifying offer. Thus, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Mikael Samuelsson – Oof. Just say goodbye and get it over with already, Mr. Holland.

Kyle Quincey – it’s difficult to imagine that they wouldn’t re-sign him because not doing so would indicate that Ken Holland make a SECOND mistake with this very same player: first, letting him go via waivers, and second, trading a first round draft pick for a few seasons of him in his later 20′s. That said, if he’s re-signed, the defense will be identical to the current one.

Jonas Gustavsson – the final signing of the Summer of Regret (TM) is having himself a great season. If the Wings don’t think that Petr Mrazek is ready for prime-time (he is), don’t be surprised to see a Conklin-like return by Gustavsson for one more year. Given how last season went, he may be too far down the rabbit hole to redeem himself, but what do I know?

—-

Now, the waiver situation. The following players will be out of waiver exemption and will have to pass through in order to be assigned to Grand Rapids.

FORWARDS
Louis-Marc Aubry
Mitch Callahan
Landon Ferraro
Andrej Nestrasil
Trevor Parkes
Riley Sheahan

DEFENSEMEN
Adam Almquist
Gleason Fournier

GOALTENDERS
None

Again, taking it from the top, there are a few things that we can deduce immediately.

Louis-Marc Aubry – never able to solidify himself as an AHLer and currently in the ECHL, it’s likely that the Wings do not send him a qualifying offer, making him a UFA. If he’s (somehow) re-signed, he doesn’t factor into the Red Wings’ NHL plans.

Mitch Callahan – he’s certainly making this decision interesting. He’s also a RFA and you can bet your ass he’s at the very least earned himself a new contract. He’s playing very, very well in Grand Rapids and seems like he knows this is his last shot with the Wings. He has never gotten a regular season call-up, so it’s hard to know what he’d bring to the NHL, but if I had the freedom to do so, I’d give him a ring the next time injuries pile up to see if he has something worth keeping around the big leagues.

Landon Ferraro – Another RFA, he’s as good as re-signed. Given where he was drafted (32nd overall… practically a first rounder… and by the Red Wings, no less), there’s absolutely no chance in hell he makes it through waivers. Like Callahan, it’d be wise to see him in NHL action before just-about-guaranteeing him a roster spot next season because of his waiver situation.

Andrej Nestrasil and Trevor Parkes – Unfortunately for these fine gentlemen, their time in the Red Wings organization is #overbanger.

Riley Sheahan – Like Ferraro, he’s pretty much guaranteed a spot on the opening night roster. The difference, of course, is that he has played a handful of NHL games in the past. The Wings won’t be short on centers to start the season. And it does NOT include Luke Glendening.

Adam Almquist – The top defensive call-up this season has to make the Red Wings next season or he absolutely will be lost via waivers. That certainly complicates the Kyle Quincey situation, or — alternatively — any addition they hope to make to the blueline via free agency.

Gleason Fournier – Not in the future plans, given the trajectory he’s had in the minors.

So… back to the roster, assuming a few promotions to the big club and ZERO re-signed players:

FORWARDS
Zetterberg :: Datsyuk :: Nyquist
Franzen :: Weiss :: Tatar
Abdelkader :: Helm :: Ferraro
Miller :: Andersson :: Callahan
Tootoo :: Sheahan

Top call-ups in Grand Rapids: Luke Glendening (waivers 2015), Tomas Jurco (waivers 2015), Teemu Pulkkinen (waivers 2015), Calle Jarnkrok (waivers 2016), Anthony Mantha (waivers 2017 if he turns pro, which he will).

DEFENSEMEN
Kronwall :: Ericsson
DeKeyser :: Kindl
Smith :: Lashoff
Almquist

Top call-ups in Grand Rapids: Xavier Ouellet (waivers 2016), Ryan Sproul (waivers 2016)

GOALTENDERS
Howard
Mrazek

Top call-up in Grand Rapids: Jake Paterson (waivers 2017). Jared Coreau is having a rough start to his pro career (to put it unimaginably lightly), so don’t even mention him.

—-

Can you imagine a world in which the Red Wings allow Daniels Alfredsson and Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, Patrick Eaves, Mikael Samuelsson, Kyle Quincey, and Jonas Gustavsson to walk away — ALL IN THE SAME OFF-SEASON — and stack their roster with not one, not two, not three, NOT FOUR — but FFFFFIIIIIVVEE rookies? I certainly can’t… but I also can’t stomach the idea of losing promising players for nothing via waivers.

The Wings have  way of stockpiling potential NHLers and bringing everyone to training camp before eventually forming the roster we all see coming in July. For the first time in recent memory, the Wings will have several players that have to make the big club or will be exposed on the waiver wire. This past year, that only applied to Tomas Tatar — next season there are 8 players, three of which are guys who would absolutely be claimed, and a fourth would likely be claimed.

Now is the time to acknowledge that if you identify a player that will not have an impact on your NHL roster, but may be of value to someone else, then perhaps you cut the cord and deal that player. Take, for example, Landon Ferraro. If he was a Calgary Flame prospect, he’d be in the NHL by now. He knows that. The Red Wings know that. If the Red Wings also know that he doesn’t have a place on the big team’s roster in 2014-15, why hang on to him any longer?

If there’s a chance that the youngsters could make the team out of training camp (a phenomenon that hasn’t happened in recent memory), then that’s another thing entirely. Complicating matters further is players who AREN’T included in this write-up — guys like Luke Glendening and Anthony Mantha. The former has proven to be a wonderful depth player, but exactly the kind of guy that the Wings will hang onto in Grand Rapids (back and forth) for another year because they can. The latter is an example of the kind of junior scorer the Red Wings have never had in the wings (pun!) and COULD, albeit unlikely, make the team as a 19 or 20 year old, but CERTAINLY before his waiver exemption expires.

Ultimately, do I think the most recent roster is the one the Wings take to the ice with in October? Absolutely not — there’s no way that all of those free agents are leaving, nor is there any way that that many young players join the already-fairly-young roster. But either the Ferraros and Sheahans make the roster, are traded elsewhere, or they’ll be snatched up for nothing.

In order of likeliness of making the roster, among the waiver-eligible rookies:

1. Riley Sheahan — book it.
2. Landon Ferraro — fairly guaranteed, even without an NHL game under his belt.
3. Adam Almquist — probably more deserving than Ferraro, but also less likely to be claimed on waivers.
4. Mitch Callahan — not guaranteed to be claimed, but will be if he keeps playing how he is.
5. Louis-Marc Aubry — relatively high draft pick to be given up for nothing.
6. Andrej Nestrasil — out.
7. Gleason Fournier — out.
8. Trevor Parkes — out.

And, also in order of likeliness of being on the roster, among the impending unrestricted free agents:

1. Todd Bertuzzi — as mentioned above, it’ll be his call, but he’s still got game.
2. Daniel Alfredsson — heck of a contributor, but they’ll have to determine his worth/risk ratio as it pertains to potential waiver moves.
3. Kyle Quincey — hard to imagine he’s not re-signed given the history, but they almost don’t have a choice.
4. Jonas Gustavsson — toss of a coin.
5. Dan Cleary — unless there’s a turnaround, he’s as redundant a player as the Wings have.
6. Patrick Eaves — wish him luck elsewhere.
7. Mikael Samuelsson — even management has to recognize the blunder.

Luke Glendening is also an unrestricted free agent, who will very likely be re-signed, but will probably not be on the NHL roster at the beginning of the season, barring injuries.

With (imaginary) extensions for Bertuzzi, Alfredsson, and Quincey — we’d be in a very similar situation heading into 2014-15 as we were heading into 2013-14 (and 2012-13… and 2011-12…), where there are several more players than there are roster spots. It’s impossible to make it through an entire season without injuries, and that’s very likely the reason there were 26 NHL players on the roster throughout training camp, despite the league only allowing 23 at a time.

So what do I think will happen as we move toward the next season of Detroit Red Wings hockey? Up front, I think that Sheahan and Ferraro are in — if for no other reasons than their stature as high draft picks and waiver eligibility. I think that one of Bertuzzi or Alfredsson are brought back, but probably not both, and certainly not “neither.” I think the second amnesty buyout is used on Tootoo, which would put us as 12 forwards — leaving two spot for a Callahan surprise, a Mantha super-surprise, or free agent acquisitions.

On the back end, I think they may try to trade Quincey during this season, or potentially let him walk rather than giving him a raise for sub-average play. Almquist is in because they won’t want to risk losing him (despite a wealth of good prospects on the blueline coming in the following years).

In net, Gustavsson departs and Mrazek steps right in and — despite the former’s excellent season — the tandem is improved.

Zetterberg :: Datsyuk :: Nyquist
Franzen :: Weiss :: Bertuzzi/Alfredsson
Abdelkader :: Helm :: Tatar
Miller :: Andersson :: Ferraro
Sheahan :: Callahan

Kronwall :: Ericsson
DeKeyser :: Kindl
Smith :: Lashoff
Almquist

Howard
Mrazek

This, obviously, doesn’t take into account other trades that may come — perhaps they look to upgrade that blueline by forfeiting one of the younger guys already on the roster, for example. With an open slot on the top line, someone like Dan Cleary (oh my God, can you imagine) or the second of Bertuzzi/Alfredsson make their way back into the lineup. But, again, that won’t improve the current roster too much, and the team runs the risk of becoming (even more) stagnant.

Looking outside of the organization, there are some free agents that will draw considerable attention. It’s hard to imagine that the Wings are in on guys like Marian Gaborik, Dany Heatley, Thomas Vanek, Joe Thornton, Alex Steen, Paul Stastny, or Jarome Iginla. But it’s possible they take a look at guys like Mike Cammalleri (whose pricetag will come way down), Ales Hemsky (ditto), David Legwand, or their ilk to fill out the forward lines. But, frankly, with Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Nyquist, and Tatar, their top six is pretty well stocked… and is Stephen Weiss becomes the player they signed him to be, there’s not a lot of room up there. I won’t pretend to be a prognosticator of such things… I’m more of a numbers kind of guy — and the preceding is where we’re at looking ahead to the summer.

 

October 17 :: Your Camera Looks Through Me With Its X-Ray Vision

These fabulous gals still hate the Avalanche. There’s no way to control it. It’s totally automatic whenever you’re around.

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
It’s the Red Wings and Avalanche. And even though it’s not 1996 anymore, I still hate those cocksuckers with the fire of a thousand suns. If ever there was a reason to bring back the pre-game format, it’s to get inside that tiny, emotionally corrupt, poutine-drenched brain of Patrick Roy, who is just begging to add to his illustrious list of career-best fuck-ups against, and only against, the Detroit Red Wings. Like… remember this? Or this? Or maybe this? You can call him the best goaltender of all time (you’d be wrong, but you can do that if it makes you warm and fuzzy) but remember this, Patty: we’ve owned you like a weird French slave that only talks to goalposts.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
The last time these two teams met, it was April 5, 2013 and the Wings won 3-2 in overtime on the strength of Pavel Datsyuk’s second goal of the contest. The other goal was scored by some strange spectre allegedly named Gustav Nyquist. He must be good.

BEST NAME NOMINEE
Gabriel Landeskog has the best name on this team, even if he looks like the already-fat guy from a boy band let himself go even further.

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: Detroit defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 on Tuesday. It was their third win in a row, and they’ll continue to ride Jonas Gustavsson.
:: Colorado beat Dallas 3-2, also on Tuesday, and remain undefeated on the young season.

EXPECTED LINEUP
By special request, the TPL Glossary is ready to jailsex your eyes.

Zetterberg — Datsyuk — Thunderchief
Mulo — Weiss — Abdelkader
Cleary — Andersson — Alfredsson
Miller — Glendening — Tootoo

Kronwall — Ericsson
Quincey — DeKeyser
Kindl — Lashoff

Gustavsson
Howard

HEALTHY SCRATCHES
Tomas “Look What You’re Doing to Me” Tatar
Mikael “I’m Utterly At Your Whim” Samuelsson
Brendan “All of My Defenses Down” Smith

Injuries
Darren “All I Can Manage to Push from My Lips is a Stream of Absurdities” Helm
Patrick “Every Word I Intended to Speak Wind Up Locked in the Circuitry” Eaves

The TPL Name Game ”Three Stars”
Dan “What is this Madness that Makes my Motor Run and my Legs Too Weak to Stand” Cleary
Gustav “I Go From Sadness to Exhilaration Like a Robot at Your Command” Nyquist
Jimmy “Up and Down Goes My Temperature” Howard
*Think you can do better? You’re probably right, it’s been a few years…*

PRE-GAME MUSIC

The 2013 Pledges Are Upon Us!

Note: at the bottom of this post, you’ll be able to submit your pledge. We will post the form in several places, but you may always return to this page to pledge. We will make the form a permanent link on the Blogroll to the right. –>

If the bulk of the text looks familiar, it’s because we posted an almost identical article before the lockout. We’ve changed the teams and dates, and some other details, but it did a decent job of explaining what we’re after.

WHAT
Unless you’re new around these parts, you’re familiar with the Pledge Games we’ve proudly hosted leading up to both H2H and H2H2. In two years’ worth of fundraising, your pledges have accounted for $12,536.06 of the nearly $20,000 that the group has been fortunate to donate to Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation.

Once again, you’ll have the opportunity to pledge your donation dollars. In years past, we’ve gotten some magnificent pledges and we look forward to hearing yours this year. Whether it’s $20 for a Red Wings win, $10 for a Pavel Datsyuk goal, $35 for a Jimmy Howard shutout, or anything in between, we’re anxious to add your promise to our spreadsheet and collect a few bucks here and a few bucks there until the total is something we can all be proud of.

If at all possible, we respectfully request that your pledges are based on something quantifiable — and preferably quantifiable by the post-game statistics. Shots, goals, plus/minus, penalties… all of that is fair game. But when we get into the more bizarre pledges (how many times Larry Murphy mentions hot dogs [not that this is an option this time around], second-period shots if the team is losing, etc), it became insanely difficult to keep track of everything. We’re going to enlist all of the help we can get in counting phenomena, but it would really help us out a great deal if your pledges were based on something easily countable.

Also, let’s try to keep the pledges to things for which there will be no disputes. For example, we may count 4 “Datsyukian Dekes,” but you only saw 3. No one has ever claimed we were trying to gauge them for more money (and I can’t imagine anyone would, since it’s going to a good cause), but the very last thing we want is for someone to feel as if their generosity has been taken advantage of. Some folks can give a dollar, some can give much, much more. But we’re grateful for every last dime and have no interest in stretching you thin.

WHEN
This year, we’re proud to submit the following 11 games for your pledge consideration in hopes that we can double the amount we’ve been able to forward to the charity that’s eventually selected (to be announced in the very near future). For any (or all) of the following games leading up to the Holidays and the Winter Classic, you may place your pledge.

  • 12/1 at Ottawa (featuring The Mustache Behind the Bench with a special appearance by the Alfie Angries!)
  • 12/4 vs. Philadelphia (a reprehensible team full of assholes!)
  • 12/6 at New Jersey (seven-team legend Jaromir Jagr!)
  • 12/7 vs. Florida (lol Tomas Kopecky!)
  • 12/10 at Florida (He’s Our Stephen Weiss Now!)
  • 12/12 at Tampa Bay (Stevie Y and the Beautifully Haired Flip!)
  • 12/14 vs. Pittsburgh (The Hate is Strong Between Us!)
  • 12/15 vs. Tampa Bay (Return of the Handsomes… AND RYAN MALONE!)
  • 12/17 vs. Anaheim (New Conference… Same Old Hatred!)
  • 12/19 vs. Calgary (Hookers4Hudler!)
  • 12/21 at Toronto (Gear up for one of the 15,120 outdoor games!)

DETAILS
We will NOT be handling donations this year. Once the pledge games are completed, you will receive an e-mail with detailed instructions on how to get your donations into the right hands. From that account, we will be delivering a (hopefully huge) check during the Winter Festival, so you’ll have to pay promptly.

You may use the following form (we’ll be pimping it all over the place) to submit your pledge.

Clearing the Logjam

As we motor towards the 2013-14 NHL season, the Detroit Red Wings’ first in the Eastern Conference (or whatever it’ll be called), it’s no secret that there are more bodies than there are roster spots. At this very moment, the Wings have 23 players signed to NHL contracts, and that number will increase to 25 when Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson are inked following restricted free agent deals.

That’s two too many. Someone (or someones) is going to have to go, whether that’s via trade, waivers, or — potentially, but unlikely — “regular” buyout (since SOMETHING will still count against the cap in that case, and there’s not a ton of room on that front, either).

To explore the merits of each player’s likelihood to stick around, perhaps it’ll be easier if broken down into lines. Make no mistake, I’m not guessing who each player will be playing with — that’s a fool’s errand. But a lot of what to expect is already evident. Ken Holland said this week that there will likely not be any moves until training camp, so don’t expect anything to be imminent.

THE TOP SIX
When free agency opened, general manager Ken Holland was clear that their top priority was a second line center. It doesn’t take a Mensa member to realize that they’d hoped to keep their premiere forwards — Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg — together, and needed someone to anchor the other top line. Enter Stephen Weiss, who is on a five-year deal for a shade less than Valtteri Filppula received in Tampa.

While Justin Abdelkader isn’t your father’s traditional top-six winger, he played well with the two dynamic skillmen and may very well have earned his spot “pulling the piano” again this season. Daniel Alfredsson wasn’t signed to play third or fourth line minutes, so count him in, too. Johan Franzen, the on-again-off-again scorer, is a lock for the second line, as well.

ZETTERBERG :: DATSYUK :: ABDELKADER
FRANZEN :: WEISS :: ALFREDSSON

THE THIRD LINE
Things start to get a little tricky right around here because the Wings have no shortage of third/fourth line-type guys. With Darren Helm’s injury issues last season (more on that later), it leaves a pretty gigantic question mark right in the center of the lineup. But let’s assume (and pray) that his recovery is going as well as they say it is and pencil him in for his normal spot.

Gustav Nyquist, once he’s signed, has more than earned his role on this team and his play on the third line in the playoffs was inspired. While he may be a better fit for a top six role eventually, the Wings have shown he’s more valuable than nearly any other winger on this line. The other winger, however, is left wide open with the departure of Damien Brunner (assuming, of course). If Dan Cleary is indeed re-signed, he’ll be a nice fit for this location, but then even more bodies will have to be moved out. Using just the players already under contract (or RFAs who will be), it’s fair to assume the following:

NYQUIST :: HELM :: Free Space #1

THE FOURTH LINE
Drew Miller was re-signed to a long-term deal, and he’s proven to be a kick-ass penalty killer. He’s body #1 on this line.

Joakim Andersson, who played the third line center position so well in the playoffs, is a lock for a spot on this team, it’s just a matter of where. It’s fair to assume that this is his spot unless he bumps up a line in case of Darren Helm injury.

Like the line above this one, there’s a free spot open for the taking.

MILLER :: ANDERSSON :: Free Space #2

THE RESERVES
Four lines with three guys each makes 12. The Wings will carry 14 forwards into the season (in addition to the 7 defensemen and 2 goaltenders). In addition to the two “free spaces” shown above, we’re left with four holes on the active roster and the following guys to fill them:

1. Mikael Samuelsson
2. Todd Bertuzzi
3. Tomas Tatar
4. Patrick Eaves
5. Cory Emmerton
6. Jordin Tootoo

Two of those guys will be gone. Which two? Let’s explore.

WORKING IN MIKAEL SAMUELSSON’S FAVOR
A) It sounds ridiculous, but his atrocious contract is the main reason that he’ll be on the opening day roster. Forget for a second that he’s being paid $3M to do… something… and recall that he was given a no-trade clause, making him difficult — but not impossible — to move. Any trade would need his stamp of approval, and he’s unlikely to give it to go to, say, Carolina. Plus, this is the second-year of a multi-year deal signed after his 35th birthday, meaning all money will count against the cap, even if he’s waived or demoted. The only relief will come via trade (which, again, he has to agree to), long-term injured reserve (which is an option because he spent most of last season on it), or buyout (but, the amnesty window has closed, meaning a significant chunk of that will be counted against the cap).
B) Mike Babcock loves this dude, for some reason. He’s large, which probably has something to do with it, and takes plenty of shots, even if they ever-s0-rarely hit the net.
C) Of all the guys listed above, he’s one of the few that can slot up into a top six role in case of an injury or penalty or whatever. There are guys I’d rather see get the nod (Nyquist, Tatar, even Bertuzzi), but there’s no doubt he’s got the experience to make such a bounce.

WORKING AGAINST MIKEAL SAMUELSSON
A) I skirted around it a bit earlier, but let’s just lay it out there: he’s pretty goddamn useless on this team. He brings nothing to the table that isn’t already available in spades.
B) His salary IS the highest among the guys potentially on the move. And while that contract will be tough to move, perhaps he’s more open to a trade when he realizes that he’ll be buried in the lineup or the press box… or scratched so long that he’s eligible for conditioning stints, opening up the possibility that he plays more for the Griffins than the Red Wings.
C) With the youth movement taking place in Motown, there’s no a ton of room on the ice for a 36-year-old dude that barely sniffed game action a year ago.

WORKING IN TODD BERTUZZI’S FAVOR
A) He’s a great team guy and they opted NOT to buy him out, leading you to believe that they’ve got a place for him if he’s healthy enough to take it.
B) He’s gigantic, and that’ll help in the more physical East.
C) Generally, players who have committed to the Red Wings for the kind of time that Bertuzzi has are treated with the same kind of commitment from the organization. Though he spent much of last season on LTIR, he has played parts of five seasons with Detroit and continues to re-sign deals because it’s clear he likes being a Red Wing. And, like Samuelsson, he’s on a 35+ deal and has a modified no-trade clause.

WORKING AGAINST TODD BERTUZZI
A) For a lot of the same reasons listed with Samuelsson, Bertuzzi is a dying breed on this incarnation of the Detroit Red Wings. He’s older (38) than anyone else on the list, and may not be able to keep up with the speed of the game any longer.
B) While he missed most of the season, the team didn’t seem to suffer from his absence.
C) Seventeen years in the NHL is a ton. And his injury history is painful to read, so imagine living it. He can’t retire, per se, because it can count against the cap… but he can “be hurt” the whole season to free up roster space and cap space.

WORKING IN TOMAS TATAR’S FAVOR
A) He’s a young stud, and showed that he can play at the NHL level whenever he was called upon to do so.
B) He’s hitting the Wings at the right time — 22-years-old when the Wings are finally admitting it’s time to get younger.
C) He can play anywhere… he’s an eventual top sixer (somewhere, if not Detroit), but will slot nicely on the three’s or, as is the Wings Way, the four’s.

WORKING AGAINST TOMAS TATAR
A) He’s already unhappy with the organization. If you recall last year, he expressed his displeasure with the opportunity that he’d received to play in the NHL up to that point. After four years of an entry-level contract, he’s played 25 games — which is quite a bit fewer than he would have played on any other team. Also, he was not one of the call-ups made available for the playoffs, with the team opting instead to go with Nyquist, DeKeyser, Andersson, and Lashoff.
B) The numbers! His #21 was given to Luke Glendening for prospects camp (which, obviously, doesn’t mean a whole lot), and even though he requested #90, it was given to Stephen Weiss. Seems pretty clear they don’t give a shit what Tomas Tatar wants on his back.
C) He’s probably the most valuable trade chip of the six guys listed as potential goners. He’s the youngest, has the most upside, is extremely cheap (and will be a RFA instead of a UFA), and is a proven scorer at every level. There would be no shortage of takers on the market.

WORKING IN PATRICK EAVES’ FAVOR
A) He’s a hell of a penalty killer, and a great guy in the locker room by all accounts.
B) He’s the quintessential Red Wing: cast out by another team too early and given a renaissance in the Motor City.
C) He won’t make a fuss if he’s playing on the third line, the fourth line, or just practicing with the team. Extremely low maintenance.

WORKING AGAINST PATRICK EAVES
A) He doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table that Drew Miller doesn’t already do. And with Miller’s new deal, it’s clear that the Wings are handing the reins of the PK over to #20.
B) Eaves’ injury history is problematic — even if it is inspirational to see him return after almost a year away from the game.
C) Even though he’s relatively cheap, paying a guy $1.2M to sit in the press box (when he’s healthy) might make some folks cringe.

WORKING IN CORY EMMERTON’S FAVOR
A) The biggest plus in Emmerton’s corner is the questionable back of Darren Helm. The team would be wise to hang onto Emmerton until they know what’s going on with Helm — who will have played only 1 game in 18 months when the next season begins. If Helm can’t go, Andersson bumps up to his spot… but there needs to be a fourth line center, and Emmerton would be it.
B) If you’re hanging onto two extra forwards, it’s never a bad idea that one of them is a center anyway.
C) Look at how cheap he is! His cap hit is actually below the league minimum. Jettisoning him won’t really help the team’s cap situation.

WORKING AGAINST CORY EMMERTON
A) Like Tatar, he’s young and very cheap. That’s an attractive combination to teams looking for help.
B) Plus, he was a monster on the penalty kill late in the season… he’d be a heck of a find for a team looking to improve in that area. Special teams guys don’t grow on trees.
C) He’s not irreplaceable, as much as I like him. There are plenty of centers coming through the pipe, including Riley Sheahan, who only has one more year of waiver exemption.

WORKING IN JORDIN TOOTOO’S FAVOR
A) He’s a tenacious little shit, which will be helpful in the Eastern Conference, which is full of flies.
B) He has two more years on his three-year deal, and the Wings clearly had a plan for him when signing him to that length.
C) Even though that part of the game is disappearing, the Wings don’t have anyone else who’s willing and able to drop the gloves. And there will be more gloves on the ice next season than in years past, I assume. His element is not immediately replaceable.

WORKING AGAINST JORDIN TOOTOO
A) It’s clear that he’s a spare part when all other parts are healthy (or, even, not), playing a single game in the playoffs. It’s possible that the reciprocated love had worn off as the season went along.
B) He does NOT have a no-trade clause, so it’s a fair bet that he’d be movable to SOMEWHERE, given his history of agitating and an easier-to-swallow-than-most salary of $1.9M.
C) While his playing style may be valuable in general… it’s never been that important to the Red Wings. Of course, they signed him to this deal, maybe it’s a business they wanted to get into, or were preparing for this realignment, but other teams have always valued pugilism more than the Red Wings have.

Locks:
1. Datsyuk
2. Zetterberg
3. Weiss
4. Alfredsson
5. Franzen
6. Abdelkader
7. Helm (assuming good health)
8. Miller
9. Andersson
10. Nyquist

The Rest (alphabetical order):
11. Bertuzzi
12. Eaves
13. Emmerton
14. Samuelsson
15. Tatar
16. Tootoo

So… which four stay, and which two go?

Final 2013 NHL Mock Draft

I covered the bulk of this material a few weeks ago with this post… but so much changes as you near the Draft that it was time to update the mock draft. I usually research upwards of 100 or 150 guys, but this year scaled it back a touch. I never get the order right, but I’m usually good for 24-29 of the 30 first rounders, and the bulk of the second rounders, too.

The following mock is presuming no trades (obviously) and — in many cases — taking a “best player available” instead of what each team NEEDS. Have at it.

1. Colorado — Nathan MacKinnon (F)
It’s possible that it’s all nonsense and they’re going to take the best available (absolutely, 100% Seth Jones), but you can’t ignore their propaganda. Either way, it’s MacKinnon and Jones 1-2, so who cares.

2. Florida — Seth Jones (D)
If the Panthers sit tight and the best player in the Draft falls into their lap, they’ll be happy campers. 

3. Tampa — Jonathan Drouin (F)
In a similar situation to 1 and 2, I actually like Sasha Barkov better than Drouin. It seems pretty clear that Jones, MacKinnon, Drouin, and Barkov will be 1-4 in some order.

4. Nashville — Sasha Barkov (F)
They’ll do a backflip if he’s still available.

5. Carolina — Darnell Nurse (D)
I think they’ll go D here… but the best player still available will be Valeri Nichushkin, even with his red (or, at least, pink) flags. Nichushkin could make a lot of NHL rosters right away, but teams have been wary of players like him for the last few years. 

6. Calgary — Sean Monahan (F)
A few guys available at this spot: Lindholm, Ristolainen, Horvat — all good fits for the Flames, who need everything.

7. Edmonton — Rasmus Ristolainen (D)
If they don’t take a D with this pick, I give up on the Oilers.

8. Buffalo — Elias Lindholm (F)
Heck of a pick at #8.

9. New Jersey — Max Domi (F)
He’s bounced up and down the list for the last few weeks, but that’s a big name to unveil to the home crowd. 

10. Dallas — Bo Horvat (F)
Jim Nill’s first pick is a big riser.

11. Philadelphia — Nikita Zadorov (D)
Also will consider Hunter Shinkaruk since they have a habit of drafting dudes who used to be no-brainer top five picks (Couturier).

12. Phoenix — Hunter Shinkaruk (F)
Great snag at #12.

13. Winnipeg — Josh Morrissey (D)
Even more than some of the forwards, I really like Morrissey and would consider picking him at 18 if he’s still available, even though the Wings have made it clear a big forward is their preference.

14. Columbus — Valeri Nichushkin (F)
Okay, bear with me… he’s a top five player, no doubt. A lot of teams will be wary of him because of his KHL contract. Columbus has three picks in the first 27, so they can afford to take a bit of a gamble. He may very well be selected before this point, but nothing will surprise me anymore.

15. Islanders — Anthony Mantha (F)
A lot of Wings fans covet Mantha, but I can’t imagine he’s available at 18. 

16. Buffalo (from Minnesota) — Ryan Pulock (D)
Pretty kick-ass pick if he lasts this long. After taking Monahan at #8, adding Pulock at #16 would be an unbelievable coup. 

17. Ottawa — Adam Erne (F)
Now we’re getting close to Red Wings territory so a few guys will be available for them. Erne is a guy I like very much, which means he’ll be picked directly before Detroit.

18. Detroit — Alexander Wennberg (F)
He’s not as big as the Wings want to draft, but you can’t really pass him up at 18. If there are guys that they like better than Wennberg (Gauthier, for example), they might slide down a few slots and pick up an additional mid-round pick. If Mantha’s available, they take him, but I can’t imagine he is. If they have a gap between Mantha and — say — Erne/Wennberg/Lazar/Gauthier, they may very well scoot back.

19. Columbus (from Rangers) — Robert Hagg (D)
After taking a flyer on Nichushkin, they’re go with a sure-thing. 

20. San Jose — Curtis Lazar (F)
A great pick at #20 and San Jose almost always takes the best guy still around.

21. Toronto — Frederik Gauthier (F)
Huge dude, great pick. He may very well be off the board by this point.

22. Calgary (from St. Louis) — Samuel Morin (D)
Quick-rising defenseman to go with their forward pick from earlier.

23. Washington — Mirco Mueller (D)
Pretty awesome value for a pick this low. 

24. Vancouver — Zach Fucale (G)
What a mess the net is in Vancouver. The top goaltender goes in the bottom portion of the first round no matter what.

25. Montreal — Jacob De La Rose (F)
If the Wings can slide back a few picks and get De La Rose, I’d be thrilled.

26. Anaheim — Valentin Zykov (F)
Another great value for her.

27. Columbus (from Los Angeles) — Andre Burakowsky (F)
With their third pick in the first round, they can afford to take a guy that some mocks have in the second round.

28. Calgary (from Pittsburgh) — Chris Bigras (D)
Fast riser.

29. Boston — Steve Santini (D)
Love this kid, but almost everyone has him in the second round. I think he goes late in the first.

30. Chicago — Nicolas Petan (F)
Classic sleeper, and would be a top 15 pick in almost any other Draft in recent memory.

ROUND TWO

31. Florida — Dillon Heatherington (D)
32. Colorado — Anthony Duclair (F) – Roy coached him in junior
33. Tampa — Kerby Rychel (F)
34. Montreal (from Nashville) — Ryan Hartman (F)
35. Carolina — Jason Dickinson (F)
36. Montreal (from Calgary) — Tristan Jarry (G) – they were coy about picking a G
37. Edmonton — Morgan Klimchuk (F)
38. Buffalo — JT Compher (F)
39. New Jersey — Eric Comrie (G)
40. Dallas — Keaton Thompson (D)
41. Philadelphia — Zach Nastasiuk (F)
42. Phoenix — Nick Sorensen (F)
43. Winnipeg — Lauren Dauphin (F)
44. Columbus — Madison Bowey (D)
45. Anaheim (from Islanders) — Connor Rankin (F)
46. Minnesota — Artturi Lehkonen (F)
47. St. Louis (from Ottawa) — Ian McCoshen (D)
48. Detroit — Mike McCarron (F) – massive, massive kid from Metro Detroit and headed to Western Michigan.
49. San Jose (from Rangers) — Nick Baptiste (F)
50. San Jose — Shea Theodore (D)
51. Toronto — Alex Forsberg (F)
52. Buffalo (from St. Louis) — Adam Tambellini (F)
53. Washington — Emile Poirier (F)
54. Dallas (from Vancouver) — Pavel Buchnevich (F)
55. Montreal — Jordan Subban (D) – why not?
56. Edmonton — Eric Roy (D)
57. Los Angeles — Taylor Cammarata (F)
58. San Jose (from Pittsburgh) — Will Butcher (D)
59. Winnipeg — Hudson Fasching (F)
60. Boston — Stephen Harper (F)
61. Winnipeg (from Chicago) — Marko Dano (F)

GUYS I HAVE MY EYE ON FOR THE THIRD ROUND AND BEYOND

Sven Andrighetto (F) — Returning to the Draft, he may very well get passed over because every team knows that he’ll be able to attend their training camp on an invitation basis. At the same time, some team may very well select him to keep OTHER TEAMS from allowing him to accept that invitation. He’s a hell of a hockey player, so I think someone takes him. I’d love if it was the Red Wings.

Jean-Sebastien Dea (F) — If he’s still on the board when the Wings pick at 79, they had damn well better take him. He won’t last much longer than that, if he lasts even that long.

Tyler Bertuzzi (F) — Imagine the Wings taking Todd’s nephew. He’s probably not a third round guy, and maybe even isn’t a fourth round guy, but if he’s on the board in the 5th or 6th, I bet the Wings take a chance on him.

Kurt Etchegary (F) — He was injured for a good portion of the season, so his stock dropped a bit. He’s probably off the board in the third round.

Tyler Motte (F) — Another Michigander, played for USNDTP, and headed to the University of Michigan. He’ll get drafted somewhere, but it’ll be between the 3rd and 5th rounds.

Roster Monster Mash

“One more year, you say? Yeah I can manage that…” Photo by Dan Mannes, Detroit Red Wings

It’s that time of year again, where we endlessly discuss what next season’s Detroit Red Wings will look like when they take the ice as a member of the Eastern Conference. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), we’re looking at a lot of the same bodies in the lineup next season, without a whole lot of room for improvement from the outside.

The free agent pool this summer is pretty bleak, so don’t expect a monumental signing (you know, like last year with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter Shane Doan and Matt Carle Jordin Tootoo and Carlo Colaiacovo). Given how many players are already signed for next season, it seems more likely that the Wings execute a 2-for-1 (or 3-for-1, or 4-for-2, or… you get the point) deal with another team looking to shed salary and/or contracts. Also on the radar are the players that are certain to be bought out by their teams in the days following the Stanley Cup is awarded.

The salary cap will be lowered to $64.3 million, which is about $6M less than the operating cap of this past season. The Red Wings were nowhere near the cap ceiling, so they have substantial wiggle room to do whatever it is they’re going to do.

All of the following information is available on our CHART, which will be updated as quickly as I can get to the keyboard when something noteworthy happens. But in order to understand where we’re at before moving into free agency (which begins July 5th this year), take a look at the current breakdown of roster spots and dollars spent.

GOALTENDERS
The tandem that the Red Wings use in 2013-14 will be identical to the one they used this past season. Jimmy Howard will enter his new six-year, big-money deal. Jonas Gustavsson, assuming he stays healthy, will be the backup for one more season. Petr Mrazek, who’s had a hell of a first pro season in Grand Rapids, will very likely be the top call-up once again, and I would be a little bit surprised if he isn’t the Wings’ backup in ’14-15. If the team deems him less-than-ready at that point, backup netminders are a dime a dozen on the open market. But for one more season, expect Howard-Gustavsson as running mates.

35 JIMMY HOWARD (6 years remaining) :: $5.292M cap hit
50 JONAS GUSTAVSSON (1 year remaining) :: $1.5M

Total Cap Committed to Goaltenders :: $6,791,667 [10.6% of cap]

DEFENSEMEN
There might be a bit of a logjam on the blueline next season, which the team may very well welcome because of the injury troubles they’ve seemed to have over the past few seasons. But, if we’re assuming all of the players are healthy all season (which is impossible), we’re looking at at a few extra bodies. One may very well be a candidate to be traded… maybe even bought out if the team opts to use one or both of the compliance buyouts this summer.

Looking from a depth perspective, we can deduce pretty much exactly what our blueline will look like. Alternate captain Niklas Kronwall and his partner Jonathan Ericsson aren’t going anywhere. Danny DeKeyser will be fully healed from a broken thumb and should retake his place among the permanent top four. Brian Lashoff is on a one-way contract so he’ll have to be in Detroit or risk being subject to waivers (and someone will absolutely claim him). Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl are restricted free agents, and you can bet your hat that they’ll be re-signed.

That leaves Carlo Colaiacovo, who has one year remaining on his deal and proved that he’s a reliable (also: cheap-ish) option for the 6th/7th D slot; and Kyle Quincey, who started playing well during the playoffs, and who the Wings paid a heavy cost for (both in dollars and trade value). That makes 8. The Wings have been known to carry 8 defensemen in the past, but that means they can carry fewer forwards (roster limit is 23), and you’ll see that it’s not LESS crowded up there in just a moment.

Wave goodbye to Ian White, the only unrestricted defenseman in the group — and considering he didn’t play in the playoffs, the writing should be on the wall for him, as he’ll move onto a sixth team since 2010. Read that again. SIXTH team since 2010.

02 BRENDAN SMITH (restricted)
04 JAKUB KINDL (restricted)
23 BRIAN LASHOFF (3 years remaining, then restricted) :: $725k
27 KYLE QUINCEY (1 year remaining) :: $3.775M
28 CARLO COLAIACOVO (1 year remaining) :: $2.5M
52 JONATHAN ERICSSON (1 year remaining) :: $3.25M
55 NIKLAS KRONWALL (6 years remaining) :: $4.75M
65 DANNY DEKEYSER (1 year remaining, then restricted) :: $1.35M

Total Cap Committed to Defensemen :: $16,350,000 [25.4% of cap] with two contracts to be signed.

FORWARDS
Things don’t get a lot easier on the forward lines, where — depending on how many defensemen the Wings carry — 13 or 14 players will be kept. I’m going to be making a few assumptions when it comes to these guys because A) this will be the THIRD year that Gustav Nyquist deserves to be on the NHL roster, B) Tomas Tatar was annoyed he wasn’t given a chance THIS year and proved that the NHL is where he belongs when he was given a call-up, and C) Joakim Andersson was told to start looking for a place to live in Detroit. I wouldn’t expect any of those guys back in Grand Rapids — particularly with how Nyquist and Andersson played in the playoffs with Damien Brunner (who, uh oh, is an unrestricted free agent).

Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Franzen are your big-name guys who are locked in. Helm, Abdelkader, Eaves, and Emmerton are your homegrown role-players. Samuelsson and Bertuzzi are your oft-injured old guys who may shatter at training camp. Add in Jordin Tootoo, Nyquist, Andersson, and Tatar and you’re already at 13. And that doesn’t include any incoming free agents, or space to re-sign your own. Something’s going to have to give.

Valtteri Filppula, Dan Cleary, and Drew Miller are the NHL roster players who may not play for the Wings again. The biggest loss in that bunch would, arguably, be Drew Miller, who was a penalty killing machine, and a worthy contributor from the fourth line. Damien Brunner, who bounced around from the top line to the press box before coming to rest on a stellar third line, will hopefully be re-signed and remain a Red Wing, but roster spots are becoming a problem.

08 JUSTIN ABDELKADER (3 years remaining) :: $1.8M
13 PAVEL DATSYUK (1 year remaining) :: $6.7M
14 GUSTAV NYQUIST (restricted)
17 PATRICK EAVES (1 year reamining) :: $1.2M
21 TOMAS TATAR (1 year remaining, then restricted) :: $840k
22 JORDIN TOOTOO (2 years remaining) :: $1.9M
25 CORY EMMERTON (1 year remaining) :: $533k
37 MIKAEL SAMUELSSON (1 year remaining) :: $3M
43 DARREN HELM (3 years remaining) :: $2.125M
44 TODD BERTUZZI (1 year remaining) :: $2.075M
40 HENRIK ZETTERBERG (8 years remaining) :: $6.083M
63 JOAKIM ANDERSSON (restricted)
93 JOHAN FRANZEN (7 years remaining) :: $3.955M

Total Cap Committed to Forwards :: $30,211,211 [47% of cap] with at least two contracts to be signed.

THE 23
There are 19 players under contract for a total of $53,325,878. That leaves almost $11 million in cap space to fill out the roster.

If you were a good math student, you’ll see that after the Wings re-sign their restricted free agents (Kindl, Smith, Nyquist, and Andersson), we’re already at 23 with absolutely no new blood and zero of the unrestricted free agents retained. That’s… a problem. If this roster couldn’t win this season, it likely won’t win next season, and Ken Holland knows that as well as anyone else does.

Which brings us to…

BUYOUTS
Per the new CBA, each team will be allowed two cap-compliance buyouts to help deal with the dramatic drop in salary cap. Any player bought out, including those on 35+ contracts (Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson) will not count against the cap — even if the team is forced to pay the terms of the buyout in dollars.

Speaking of those two, they may very well be candidates for buyouts. Neither played (much) in the playoffs — even when healthy. It seems that their status on the depth chart is murky at best, and although one-year deals aren’t the first candidates for buyouts, you can’t argue that their role on the team has become diminished to the point of redundancy (at best).

Ken Holland has already said that they will not be buying out Johan Franzen, who would be a good candidate from a cap and length standpoint, but left open the option to use them on someone. They can be used either this summer or next — two total, not two each — so it’s something that has to enter the equation.

Other potential candidates for buyout include Carlo Colaiacovo (but, again, he’s a valuable depth defenseman if he stays healthy), Jonas Gustavsson (but, again, he’d have to be replaced with a goaltender anyway), and Kyle Quincey (who, given the investment the team has made in him, seems more likely to be traded if he’s not in the team’s long-term plans).

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
By now you’ve noticed that we haven’t factored in any of the unrestricted free agents. It’s not that the team doesn’t plan to bring them back, or that they’re going to be moving on, but unless something ELSE listed above happens first, there’s literally no place for them on the roster. I do think that some of these guys will be inked, but that means someone else above has to go — one way or another.

11 DAN CLEARY (made $2.8M this season)
I think it’s obvious that Cleary wants to return, and that the team is saying all of the right things when it comes to the public. I can’t imagine, given the roster situation that we’re in, that he’s back. Guys like him are always available — this year, replacing him will come from within. Likelihood of return: 20%

18 IAN WHITE ($2.875)
Given his statements, and the ones made by the team, he’s as good as gone. Considering how little he played down the stretch, he’ll welcome the change, and the Wings will welcome the roster space. Likelihood of return: 0.67%

20 DREW MILLER ($837k)
I think he’s a good bet to be re-signed. He’ll be affordable, and his tenacity on the fourth line can’t be replaced by anyone better coming through the pipe, or on the market. Likelihood of return: 80%

24 DAMIEN BRUNNER ($1.2M)
All signs seem to indicate that a return is in everyone’s best interest. In order to accommodate his return, roster spots will have to be cleared one way or another. Another interesting thing to watch is his price tag. How do you properly gauge his value, given the shortened season and being that he’s still becoming used to North American hockey, etc? Likelihood of return: 75%

39 JAN MURSAK ($550k)
Already gone, has signed in the KHL. Likelihood of return: 0%

51 VALTTERI FILPPULA ($3M)
We all know the story here. He’s seeking a lot more money ($5M) than the Wings are willing to pay him. In a very thin free agent market, someone will absolutely pay him what he’s seeking, and I think we’ve seen the last of Flip in Motown. One of my favorites, so I’ll be sad to see him go, but he didn’t play in a way that demanded his return. Likelihood of return: 25%

FRANCIS PARE ($527k)
I’d bet dollars to donuts that he will not be re-signed. There are plenty of players making the jump to the AHL and he hasn’t so much as sniffed a call-up. Likelihood of return: 1%

JORDAN PEARCE ($525k)
The poor kid couldn’t even stick in Grand Rapids, so it’s probably best that he moves on to med school now. Even if he continues playing hockey, I can just about guarantee that he won’t be signed by the Detroit Red Wings directly. Likelihood of return: 1%

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
02 BRENDAN SMITH ($875k) — will be signed, no doubt.
04 JAKUB KINDL ($883k) — see directly above
14 GUSTAV NYQUIST ($762k) — again
63 JOAKIM ANDERSSON ($875k) — and once more
THOMAS MCCOLLUM ($817k) — with Mrazek playing how he is, and Jared Coreau joining the Griffins next season, Thomas McCollum’s time as a Red Wing may have come to an end. If they decided to keep him within the organization, they can have the Griffins (or Walleye, I suppose) sign him directly without burning a contract. More on that in a minute.
BRENT RAEDEKE ($523k) — ditto

CONTRACT LIMIT
Independent of the 23 players you’re allowed to carry on an active roster, each team is only allowed 50 total contracts. Players signed and assigned to AHL affiliates, or playing in Europe, count against this number. Players signed but playing junior hockey DO NOT, but at the moment, everyone the Wings have inked will be playing in the NHL, the AHL, or in Europe next season.

Goaltenders (4) — Howard, Gustavsson, Mrazek, Coreau
Defensemen (15) — Kronwall, Ericsson, Quincey, Colaiacovo, DeKeyser, Lashoff, Ouellet, Sproul, Jensen, Almquist, Nedomlel, Fournier, Nicastro, Marchenko, Backman.
Forwards (23) — Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Samuelsson, Helm, Bertuzzi, Tootoo, Abdelkader, Eaves, Tatar, Emmerton, Sheahan, Jurco, Callahan, Ferraro, Jarnkrok, Pulkkinen, Frk, Tvrdon, Aubry, Coetzee, Parkes, Nestrasil.

That’s a total of 42 contracts, leaving 8 slots. We’ve already discussed the 4 restricted free agents who will be re-signed. Meaning 4 spots available.

TENTATIVE ROSTER

Bertuzzi – Datsyuk – Abdelkader
Franzen – Zetterberg – (Nyquist)
Tatar – Helm – Samuelsson
Tootoo – Emmerton – Eaves
(Andersson)

Kronwall – Ericsson
DeKeyser – Quincey
(Kindl) – (Smith)
Lashoff – Colaiacovo

Howard
Gustavsson

2013 Draft

Jones MacKinnon Drouin

Seth Jones (Steve Dykes, USA Today); Nathan MacKinnon (Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images); and Jonathan Drouin (Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images) — in all likelihood the top three selections. So don’t fall in love.

Later this month, NHL clubs will gather in New Jersey (gross, I know) to take turns selecting the 18-year-olds that they’re going to be adding to their prospect cupboards. The Red Wings — assuming they don’t trade their pick — will select 18th overall. If they had won their second round series against the Blackhawks, the earliest they could have selected is 27th (the final four teams remaining the Stanley Cup playoffs get 27-30 automatically… the rest are determined by lottery and regular season finish).

If they hang onto their selection, 18th is the highest the Wings will have picked since selecting Martin Lapointe 10th overall just a short 22 years ago. If ever there was a time to have a decent draft pick, 2013 is the year. This is the deepest draft in recent memory — with all thirty first round picks potentially making an NHL impact sooner rather than later. We’ll take a quick look at the guys at the top of the list — but, barring something major taking place on the draft floor, the Wings will have no chance at them whatsoever.

But, what can you expect as a fan of the Winged Wheel? If you can hang through the whole post (gimme a break, it’s been six months!), we should have a pretty good indication of things to come. I usually get 24-28 of the 30 guys right… though never even close to the correct order.

THE TOP FLIGHT GUYS
1. Seth Jones (D – Portland Winterhawks)
At his coronation ceremony, new Colorado Avalanche head coach and vice president Patrick Roy hinted that the first overall selection may be available for the right deal. I think he was bluffing, because even though moving down a few slots and adding an additional player from this draft may make a lot of sense for a team as thin as the Avalanche, you don’t pass up on a franchise defenseman at the top of the board — PARTICULARLY one from Colorado who credits the Avalanche as the reason he got into hockey. That’s just good marketing that comes with the best player in the Draft.

2 & 3. Nathan MacKinnon (F – Halifax Mooseheads) & Jonathan Drouin (F – Halifax Mooseheads)
These two are teammates and linemates (the third of the trio is Red Wings draft pick Martin Frk). Some mock drafts have these guys flipped…or even have one going first overall…but everyone and their mother has Jones, MacKinnon, and Drouin going 1-2-3 in some order. If I were a betting man, and the top three teams don’t trade out of their spots, I’ve got Jones to Colorado, MacKinnon to Florida, and Drouin to Tampa.

4. Sasha Barkov (F – Finland)
He’s Russian-Finnish in the same way that I’m Italian-American. His name is absolutely Russian, but he was born in, raised in, and plays international hockey for Finland, which should help him avoid the annual “Russian Free Fall” that has happened at every single Draft since the KHL formed. He’ll be the top European player off the board and is very likely #4 to Nashville.

5. Darnell Nurse (D – Sault Ste. Marie)
Donovan McNabb’s nephew is a gigantic kid and the consensus #2 blueliner available. It’s all a matter of who needs a defenseman. Carolina may take him at 5, which may be a smart move considering they didn’t take a defenseman until the fourth round last year.

6. Sean Monahan (F – Ottawa)
The one-time top pick is this year’s Sean Couturier, though I doubt he slides all the way to Philly at 11. Calgary selects at #6.

7. Rasmus Ristolainen (D – Finland)
The top European defenseman on most boards. Edmonton holds the seventh pick in the Draft, and they’d be wise to select a defenseman (FINALLY) with their top pick. But there are plenty of kick-ass forwards available for them.

8. Hunter Shinkaruk (F – Medicine Hat)
Best Name Nominee Hunter Shinkaruk will need to add some mass before jumping to the NHL. Buffalo selects at this spot, and might look nice playing with Mikhail Grigorenko in a few seasons.

9. Elias Lindhold (F – Sweden)
The top Swede available. The hometown Devils hold the ninth pick, and they’ve never been afraid to go over the pond for their selections, but they might want to make the fans in the building rock with a local selection. Who knows.

10. Valeri Nichushkin (F – KHL)
Here’s the top candidate for an aforementioned major Russian Free Fall. He’s the top Russian available, and very likely a top five pick based solely on skill. But, in addition to the KHL angle, he also refused to answer questions about whether he’d be willing to play in the AHL during media availability. That’s going to be a huge red flag for a lot of teams. The Stars, and Jim Nill, hold the tenth pick and I’d bet my left foot he doesn’t use his first pick as general manager on a guy with that kind of uh oh following him around.

11. Nikita Zadorov (D – London)
While he’s also Russian, he’s committed to playing North American hockey, a top blueliner for the incredibly talented London Knights. Philadelphia picks here.

12. Anthony Mantha (F – Val d’Or)
He’s huge, he’s a 50 goal scorer in the OHL, and he’s a Pronovost. He’ll be off the board before Detroit’s name is called… but probably not before Jim Nill’s is called (at 10). Phoenix holds the #12 overall pick.

13. Ryan Pulock (D – Brandon)
Captain of the Wheat Kings and a two-time member of Canada’s underage national team. Some have him in the top five. Winnipeg will be picking at #13.

14. Bo Horvat (F- London)
Already has a million OHL awards. The Blue Jackets would do a backflip if he was still available at 14. He may very well not be.

POTENTIAL RED WINGS TARGETS
Now that the (likely) top 14 players are off the board, we can take a peek at guys who may very well be available when the Red Wings select at 18. This might be easier if broken down by position.

GOALTENDERS
There will probably be a goaltender selected in the first round (Zach Fucale) — maybe even two (Eric Comrie). The Red Wings won’t be selecting them. If you haven’t noticed, the Wings have gotten into the habit of drafting a netminder every other year at the Draft. Last year, Jake Patterson… in ’10, Petr Mrazek… in ’08, Thomas McCollum… in ’06, Daniel Larsson. This year isn’t an even year, so they’ll pass. Book it.

DEFENSEMEN
The last five Drafts, the Wings have selected non-blueliners with their top pick. That’s only noteworthy because every first round pick they held onto between 1993 and 2007 was used to select a blueliner. With the young defensemen developing (DeKeyser, Smith, and Kindl in Detroit… Ouellet, Sproul, Jensen in Grand Rapids), I don’t think that they use this pick for a blueliner — particularly since the forward crop is so deep. But it’s not out of the question (as you’ll see below in the Mock Draft). If the 18th-pick-worthy forwards are gone, they’ll take a great defenseman before they force a forward into that slot.

Josh Morrissey (Prince Albert, 6-0, 183)
One of the alternate captains of Team Canada’s U18 team at the Ivan Hlinka tournament (where they won gold). He led all tournament defensemen in goals and points, and all players in plus-minus. He was the CHL Scholastic Player of the Year and played in the CHL Top Prospects Game. A hell of a pick if he’s still available at 18.

Robert Hagg (MODO, 6-2, 203)
Split his season between MODO’s senior squad (where he was teammates with former Red Wing Mattias Ritola) and their U20 team (which he captained at 18), and won silver medals at both the World Junior Championships and U18 Tournament. Kid knows how to win, and comes from the Hockeytown Hotbed of Sweden.

Mirco Mueller (Everett, 6-3, 187)
Keep your eye on this name. He played for Switzerland’s WJC team (and captained their U18 team) in addition to playing a full season for the Silvertips in the WHL. With the recent Swiss influx (including Damien Brunner), the Wings may take a flier.

Madison Bowey (Kelowna, 6-1, 201)
The Winnipeg native won gold at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, as well as the U18 WJC, and racked up 30 points, 75 penalty minutes, and was +41 in 69 games for Kelowna.

Jordan Subban (Belleville, 5-9, 176)
Yup, there’s another one. PK and Malcolm’s littlest brother (both in age and stature) comes from a hell of a bloodline. PK was taken 43rd overall… Malcolm was taken 24th… I bet Jordan falls somewhere in between those two.

Steve Santini (USNTDP, 6-2, 205)
The only American of the bunch is heading to Boston College next season, so the team that selects him will have (up to) four years to sign him instead of the usual two. He was named the best defenseman at the U18 WJC.

FORWARDS
Alexander Wennberg (Djurgarden, 6-1, 183)
Signed by the Red Wings’ favorite SEL team, Frolunda, through the 2014-15 season, Wennberg already has a WJC silver medal to go with his budding Swedish professional career.

Curtis Lazar (Edmonton, 5-11, 194)
Led the Oil Kings in goals scored during the 2012-13 season in which he was an alternate captain. Played in the CHL Top Prospects game, as well as the Ivan Hlinka Tournament (gold medal for Canada).

Valentin Zykov (Baie-Comeau, 6-0, 207)
Came to North America before last season and was named Rookie of the Year for the QMJHL, as well as the CHL as a whole. He was drafted by CSKA Moscow in the most recent KHL Draft, but he seems committed to staying in North America.

Frederik Gauthier (Rimouski, 6-5, 209)
Kid’s huge already, and scored at just under a point-per-game pace for the Oceanic. He’ll go in the first round for sure, it’s just a matter of where.

Anthony Duclair (Quebec, 5-10, 150)
He’s a little on the small side, but I bet Patrick Roy is interested in him. A member of Roy’s Remparts team for the last two seasons, he scored 116 points in 118 games as a 16 and 17 year old. Yikes.

Adam Erne (Quebec, 6-1, 196)
Duclair’s teammate is a guy I have my eye on. He was interviewed by 28 teams at the combine (only Dallas and Pittsburgh didn’t express interest, apparently), where he was the first one to hop onto the floor. He seems like a go-getter, and by all accounts is a great kid. He’s going to make some team very lucky in the first round.

Kerby Rychel (Windsor, 6-0, 185)
Warren Rychel’s kid (YOU’RE OLD!) plays as close to Joe Louis Arena as you can without being a Red Wing, so chances are good that the scouting staff has seen him dozens of times while he scored 87 and 74 points over the last two seasons. He actually played for the Spitfires as a 16-year-old, too, scoring 13 points in 32 games as a rookie (after being traded from Mississauga, where he had 8 in 30).

Max Domi (London, 5-9, 194)
Hey, speaking of bloodlines. Tie Domi’s kid started out as a top-five pick…fell to a potential second rounder…and has risen back up to a potential top ten pick. I think he’ll be around during the teens, so the Wings have a real shot at him. He’s scored 136 points in 126 OHL games, where he’s won an OHL championship, an Ivan Hlinka gold, and played in the CHL Top Prospects Game.

TRADE
Of course, there’s always the chance that the Wings trade their pick. Last season, they traded their top selection to the Lightning in the deal that brought Kyle Quincey back to Detroit… but the Wings often trade down, adding another pick or two simply by sliding down the chart a few slots. In 2011, they traded #24 to Ottawa for #35 & #48. So, for one draft pick, they were able to get Tomas Jurco and Xavier Ouellet. In 2009, #29 went to Tampa for #32 (Ferraro) and #75 (Nestrasil). So it’s entirely possible we see another swap if there are a few guys that the Wings like more than ONE guy at #18.

Potential trade partners include the Montreal Canadiens (who have picks 25, 34, and 36), Columbus Blue Jackets (19 and 44), San Jose Sharks (20, 49, and 50), Toronto Maple Leafs (21 and 51), and Anaheim Ducks (26 and 45).

If the Wings can select Adam Erne at 18… or a guy like Duclair at 25 and someone like Sven Andrighetto (who’s re-entering the draft) at 36, that’s the kind of deal that Ken Holland likes to make.

Teams that could make a big splash trade-wise include Columbus (they have their own 14th, the Rangers’ 19th, and LA’s bottom four), Buffalo (8th and Minnesota’s 16th), Dallas (10th and Boston’s bottom four), and Calgary (6th, St. Louis’ 22nd, and Pittsburgh’s bottom four). That, of course, means that a few teams are left out of the party: Boston, Los Angeles, Minnesota, the Rangers, Pittsburgh, St. Louis are all without a first round pick.

DETROIT’S PICKS
The Red Wings currently own all of their own draft picks. They will select with the following selections:

Round 1 :: 18th overall
Round 2 :: 48th overall
Round 3 :: 79th overall
Round 4 :: 109th overall
Round 5 :: 139th overall
Round 6 :: 169th overall
Round 7 :: 199th overall

MOCK DRAFT
1. Colorado — Seth Jones, D
2. Florida — Nate MacKinnon, F
3. Tampa Bay — Jonathan Drouin, F
4. Nashville — Sasha Barkov, F
5. Carolina — Rasmus Ristolainen, D
6. Calgary — Elias Lindholm, F
7. Edmonton — Darnell Nurse, D
8. Buffalo — Sean Monahan, F
9. New Jersey — Hunter Shinkaruk, F
10. Dallas — Bo Horvat, F

11. Philadelphia — Ryan Pulock, D
12. Phoenix — Josh Morrissey, F
13. Winnipeg — Alexander Wennberg, F
14. Columbus — Nikita Zadorov, D
15. Islanders — Adam Erne, F
16. Buffalo — Frederik Gauthier, F
17. Ottawa — Anthony Mantha, F
18. Detroit — Robert Hagg, D
19. Columbus — Valeri Nichushkin, F
20. San Jose — Madison Bowey, D

21. Toronto — Max Domi, F
22. Calgary — Curtis Lazar, F
23. Washington — Kerby Rychel, F
24. Vancouver — Valentin Zykov, F
25. Montreal — Jordan Subban, D
26. Anaheim — Mirco Mueller, D
27. Columbus — Zach Fucale, G
28. Dallas — Steve Santini, D [Boston's first rounder became Dallas' upon Boston's advancing -- thanks for the catch, Hancock]
29. Calgary — Anthony Duclair, F
30. Chicago — JT Compher, F

Interesting names for the second round and beyond: Connor Rankin, F; Keaton Thompson, D; Eric Roy, D; Taylor Cammarata, F; Andre Burakowsky, F; Pavel Buchnevich, F; Jason Dickinson, F; Samuel Morin, D; Ryan Hartman, F; Artturi Lehkonen, F; Jacob de la Rose, F; Nicolas Petan, F; Adam Tambellini, F; Nick Baptiste, F; Keaton Thompson, D; Justin Bailey, F; Jean-Sebastien Dea, F; Tyler Bertuzzi, F (Todd’s nephew); Kurt Etchegary, F; Taylor Cammarata, F; Tyler Motte, F, Sven Andrighetto, F.

If the Wings pick Erne, Gauthier, Domi, Wennberg, Santini, Morrissey, or Hagg in the first round… and follow it up with de la Rose, Mueller, or Petan in the second… and somehow get their hands on Andrighetto, Dea, Etchegary, or Cammarata in the mid-to-later rounds, I’ll do a backflip.

 

Online Songs

And if we can have another day,
I’ve got so much left to say,
I’d tell you everything.

Blink-182, “Online Songs”

Everyone has a favorite band or musical artist. The human connection to music begins early in life and continually evolves as the years go by. And while musical tastes may ebb and flow, most individuals with a pulse and a heartbeat in this world latch on to a group or act that stays with them, even through all of the changes. For me, it’s Blink-182. Attending their performances during my high school years was a summer rite of passage, and every time I hear their music, I’m immediately transported back to a time when I was young and carefree and without major responsibility. It’s liberating and meaningful. Perhaps, though, the most beautiful piece of the puzzle is that even though other people may claim Blink-182 as their favorite band, none will have the exact same visceral reaction as I do when the opening chords of “Dammit” or ” Carousel” begin playing. My soundtrack may have the same songs as yours, but the meaning is entirely different.

I’ll never forget when Blink-182 announced they were breaking up in 2005. I didn’t get angry or cry or punch anything. I wasn’t as devastated as some of those young teenage girls were when The Beatles split up. In fact, I was completely the opposite. Sure, deep down it definitely sucked, but in my mind it was nothing more than the confirmation of a simple life truth: nothing lasts forever, no matter how good it is.

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Petrella drew the short straw six months ago when he wrote the post that let all of you know the doors to TPL were being closed. His voice was the last to be heard, and his message was one that both myself and Disch stood behind. But there’s more to the story of what led to the decision to hang it up, and it’s only fair that you have that context. To put it very bluntly, I’m not sure any of us were happy doing what we were doing. When we launched the new site and brought the three of us together for the first time, the project was focused on our unique voices and opinions, and we prided ourselves on doing things our way and not giving a damn about the repercussions. It was raw and fun and distinctly our own. And while the finished product that you saw on the site may have never wavered too far from that manifesto, the sad fact is that the process to getting the content out there did.

In layman’s terms, it just wasn’t fun anymore.

Petrella, Disch and I had many long talks in the run-up to the December closure of the site, and it became apparent to each of us that the magic wasn’t there anymore. Sure, we loved engaging with all of you, but the grind of pulling together pre-games, doing wrap-ups and working on longer-form content was taking a major toll on us. Combined with the personal demands of jobs, families, hobbies, etc., the closure of the site was a foregone conclusion. It was just a matter of timing, and frankly, I’m surprised we held out as long as we did.

As the summer ended and the lockout took over, so did the realization that the time was right to hang it up. The three of us hopped on an e-mail thread, made our cases, and took a simple vote. The tally was unanimous and the results were executed quickly: the site closed and we all moved on to different things. To be clear, none of this was a result of infighting or broken friendships. The three of us have always remained good friends, but there was a point where I didn’t have a meaningful conversation with either of my partners for the better part of three months. Nobody was mad at each other. Nobody disliked any of the others. Quite simply, the passion behind the site was gone and – to some extent – we had all already gone our own different ways and moved on to new things. It was sad, but it was also necessary.

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After Blink-182 split and everyone went into their own side projects, the band didn’t actually speak as a group for over three years. Travis Barker – drummer – spent time working with the now deceased DJ AM, and they happened to be on a plane together in September of 2008. The plane ended up crashing during landing, and killed all aboard, except for Barker and DJ AM. As Barker was in the hospital recovering from trauma and severe burns, his band mates found themselves supporting him by his bed – and at the same time speaking to each other for the first time in three years. Shortly thereafter, the guys made their way to the stage of the 2009 Grammy Awards. As they prepared to hand out the award for Best Rock Album, Barker walked up to the microphone and issued a very subdued, yet powerful statement:

“We used to play music together, and we decided we’re going to play music together again.”

For those who had followed Blink-182 for any length of time, there was plenty to be excited about. But there was also an understanding. These guys had gone and spent three years on different projects with other musicians, and their sounds and talents had changed because of it. So despite the same cast of characters under the familiar banner, there was bound to be some changes in the sound, delivery and content. Honestly though, I could have cared less. I just wanted three dudes that made the music of my youth to get back together and make some more tunes. In fact, it wasn’t really ever about the music. It was a victory for the belief that problems can be solved and passion can be found, even when the situation says that the odds are fully against it. Some call it fate. Others call it romanticism. I just turn up the volume on another song and lose myself in a sea of memories.

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Petrella, Disch and I used to write here together, and we’ve decided we’re going to write here together again.

It’s a decision that hasn’t been made lightly. Over the past few months, we’ve revisited the issue a number of times, and there’s been more than one discussion that’s ended with us deciding not to come back. But the more we talked and the more we thought things over, we realized that TPL is an important part of our lives and something we weren’t ready to give up. However, we also reached an understanding that the previous model was flawed and something we wouldn’t allow ourselves to fall back into. Changes had to be made and a common goal had to be in sight at all times. That goal is simple: Be raw, be fun and be distinctly TPL.

So what does it all mean? It means that each of us understands that TPL is just a piece of the larger personal puzzle. Petrella will continue his coaching duties, Disch will continue to bike and blog, and I’ll continue my photo project. Jobs, hobbies and responsibilities won’t come at the expense of banging out a post on TPL. Life will be prioritized properly. Think of it as our own internal “optional skate.”

It also means that you’ll see a big change in terms of content on the site. Gone are the pre-game posts and post-game wrap-ups. There’s plenty of great Red Wings sites on the right sidebar that already handle those areas, and as the biggest time suck for the three of us, they were the first to go. As for TP:60, no official decisions have been made, but I think it’s safe to assume that the podcast is also going by the wayside.

Things that won’t change? Petrella’s insane roster analysis and prospect coverage, Disch’s whiskey-laden stories that eventually tie in hockey and blow your mind, and my verbose and lengthy long-form postulations. And while that specific content won’t change, the regularity of our writing will. There will be weeks where content pops up frequently. There will also be weeks where nothing goes up on the site. We’re completely OK with that. It’s part of the deal we made with each other and we believe it will make the resulting product even better. We’ve also realized that much of the instant reaction and analysis we turned into posts in the past can be delivered through the @TPLhockey Twitter account. Petrella has done a fantastic job utilizing the account over the past few months, and we’ll continue to make that a priority moving forward.

As for the rest of it, we haven’t really decided. I’m sure there will be new shirts in the store from time to time, the charity angle is likely to stick around, The Pipeline is something we are still interested in and the ever popular Loss Candy still seems like an attainable goal. We’ll meet as a group over the coming weeks and figure out what makes sense, but for now, we’re just happy to have the site back online and content in the hopper.

Finally, we owe all of you a huge thank you. Most of you have been frequent visitors over the past couple of years, and the amount of supportive e-mails and tweets we’ve received during the last six months has been mind-blowing. If it wasn’t for your support and enthusiasm about our product, TPL would still be padlocked tighter than Fort Knox.

It’s been a long road back and there’s still plenty of hurdles to overcome. But the first and most important step is complete and TPL is open for business yet again.

It’s good to be back.

Jailsexingly yours,
TPL

The Production Line II

It’s not me, NHL… it’s you.

I’ve long said that I’ll love hockey until the day that I die. It’s easy to love our game – it’s beautiful, it’s difficult, it’s taken me to places that I would have only dreamed of if I wasn’t moderately talented on a pair of steel blades. From infancy, I was hooked and I have no intention of unhooking myself.

Love for the NHL, however… that’s another story.

For the third time in our lifetimes, the league has locked out the players. I won’t get into the specifics here (you’re already aware of them), nor will I give an opinion about who’s right and who’s wrong (neither side smells of roses and sunshine). It’s entirely possible that while I’ll never stop being a hockey fan, there’s a very real possibility that I’ve stopped being a National Hockey League fan.

I’ve given up my season tickets. I’ve canceled my recurring Center Ice subscription. I’ve refused to spend a single dollar on anything NHL-related for the holidays. I’ve very likely crossed the point of no return. The treatment we’ve received, as fans, from a second tier league that behaves like a third tier league and operates like a fourth tier league, is mind-boggling. I find myself questioning whether or not I can look past this latest transgression and once again watch in baffled admiration as the world’s best athletes participate in something that has – for over thirty years – been an important part of my life.

Might this attitude vanish once a deal is signed? Perhaps. Since not even two weeks ago, when I claimed not to give a shit in the least, the parties looked like they’d gotten close to a deal, I found myself wide-eyed and optimistic, even though I’d promised myself I wouldn’t. What should have been a laughable “of course they aren’t” moment upon the realization that this optimism was misguided was more of a disappointment and disbelief. Those aren’t attributes of a truly apathetic hockey fan. They’re indicative of someone who WANTS the game back, and HOPES the spark returns.

But like a jilted lover, there comes a point at which you’ve got to pick your head up, be strong, and throw the guilty party out of your life so that you can begin to heal and re-evaluate what’s most important in your life.

It is with great sadness, a heavy heart, a healthy helping of anger, and a touch of bitterness that I’m here to announce that The Production Line is closing its doors. While there’s no guarantee it’ll be permanent, it’s what we need to do at this time – step away and distance ourselves from the mess that’s become of our league.

There’s a lot to be proud of around here. The things that we’ve done, and the community that we’re lucky to be a part of, are nothing short of amazing. There was Herm to Hockeytown, which began as an attempt to raise enough money to get a Red Wings fan from Brazil to the United States and ended up becoming an opportunity for pledge games and fundraising for Children’s Hospital – a sum that neared $20,000 over two events.

There was Operation: Curly Fries, as silly an idea as we’ve ever had, aimed at restoring the delicious fried goodness as Arby’s staple giveaway should a Red Wing score a hat trick. The idea took on a life of its own, appearing in Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, and eventually seeing us partner with the restaurant chain and with Fox Sports Detroit to oversee a vote of Detroit fans. A vote, by the way, that ended 94% – 6% in favor of our little initiative.

There have been dozens of episodes of The Production Hour, lovingly referred to around these parts as TP:60. We’ve had current and future Red Wings grace the airwaves, telling stories about lovey-dovey roommates, mustache wars, Doug Janik Story Time, and – of course – their Disney princesses of choice.

There was a weekend spent aboard Red Bird II, and with the team as they played back-to-back games. A trip that included a two-hour breakfast with Ken Holland, a pat-down from Ken Daniels, an awkward encounter with Todd Bertuzzi, and a brief but lovely conversation with Ruslan Salei, who unfortunately passed last summer.

There’s the Shirtuzzi, which has seen more of the world than I have – from New York’s fashion week to Mayan ruins. There have been Horsecops, Emodanos, Ping Pong Tables, The She-Tuzzimoms ranking Red Wing hunks, strange Direct Messages from absolutely horrible additions to the blueline, Draft floor interviews.

We’ll miss you. We sincerely love being a part of this family, and we’ll forever cherish the real-life friendships we’ve forged out of what began as an attempt to stay in touch with far-away Red Wings brothers. Rob Discher and Chris Hollis are — without exaggeration — two of my best friends and I love them dearly. We’ve made friends with some amazing people — Stevie, JJ, Marlon, Casey, Natalie, Brian, Tyler, Brad, Graham, Maria, Jen, Zac, Jason, Sara, Greg, Clark, Matt… I’ll have to stop naming them because I know I’ll forget someone — and they’re no longer “internet friends,” they’re legitimate friends and I know we’ll remain in touch even though there won’t be new words on this page each day.

The Detroit Red Wings organization, particularly Ayron Sequeira, Will Posthumus (who is now with the Pistons), and Ryan Michaels (who has also moved on to the next phase in his life), have been an absolutely blast to work with. Whenever we had an idea — no matter how ridiculous or outlandish — they always listened, and did whatever they could to help facilitate. Their involvement in the aforementioned endeavors cannot be understated, and we’re all lucky to have had them as a part of our community over the last several years.

I’m going to continue loving hockey. There’s college hockey (which we all should have been watching anyway), the American Hockey League (which has always been entertaining hockey for a smaller price), and high school hockey which I’ve had the great pleasure of coaching for the last two seasons (Go Vikings). My involvement in the sport will remain as high as it always has… but unfortunately my involvement with The Production Line will not. It has been one of the greatest adventures of my life and I’ll never forget any of it — all 1,211 articles are special, all of the nearly one million page visits meant something to us, and all of the Red Wings moments were a little more meaningful because we got to share them with all of you.

Jailsexingly yours,
MICHAEL PETRELLA

This is Too Easy

To the league I have loved since I was in the single digits…to the team whose emblem I have etched on my ribs….to the players I have enjoyed watching the past few years as we continue this “team in transition” phase…

Good morning. Its been a while since we’ve talked, but that happens every few months. Each year, the playoffs end, the summer settles in and we adjust. We find new hobbies. We do warm weather things like sitting on boats and staring at scantily clad members of the opposite sex. It’s a wondrous time and one that fills an important role each year. Hockey season, for those of us devoted, is a rather “involved” few months and the period of detachment, of relaxing, of not thinking about hockey is an important one. It allows us to fully devote ourselves to the game when the action fires back up.

As fans, we spend months scrambling home from jobs to watch games, agonizing over reviewed non-goals and trying to read the tea leaves on our team’s trajectory.

Is it a random win or the beginning of a successful home stand?

Is it a crippling injury or an opportunity for one of our youngsters to step into a bigger role?

Are we destined for a long “spring season” or headed for a first round exit?

I’ve spent more time than you can imagine wrestling with questions like these…wrenching over the re-acquisition of players I was happy to see leave Detroit years ago, crying into my award-winning PBR about franchise guys going to other teams, analyzing if our brass has lost its touch. Wondering what’s ahead.

I’m one of the guys who has spent years defending this game in markets where it’s hard to be a hockey fan. Markets where people can tell you without looking at a calendar when deer season starts, but couldn’t define icing if their fishing license depended on it. I’ve taken countless dates to hockey games and sat there while they looked at the ice, having no idea why the whistle was blowing, why there were only “three quarters” and how much longer they had to sit there. I’ve been the “strange guy who likes hockey” at parties, clinging to anyone visiting from “the North” who had an interest in the game.

I’m the guy who has loved you through previous lockouts, through bad TV deals with networks nobody had ever heard of, through late-night West Coast games that kept me up into the wee hours. I have loved you deeply…baby…I have loved you strong and longtime…and I have loved you without hesitation. It always felt right.

But now I’ve fucking had it.

This lockout is the most ridiculous heap of bullshit I’ve ever seen in our game, and the longer it drags out, the easier it gets to deal with the fact that YOU…as a hopeless triumvirate of teams, league officials and players…essentially broke up with ME. I’m looking around. I’m realizing that those summer activities that occupied my time, the ones that inevitably got replaced with hockey in the fall, they’re just evolving. They’re turning into more movies, more football, more other random-ass sports that I’m enjoying these days.

The fact that we’re cancelling regular season games, to me, represents a complete failure by everyone. I’m not taking sides. You’re all dicks and you each carry some responsibility for what is happening right now – or better yet, what isn’t happening. I stopped paying attention weeks ago to the bickering over revenue splits. “Oh, some unnamed team official leaked commentary about the lockout?” Did I see that somewhere this morning? I can’t even remember.

You are making this far too easy. For a guy who has spent three decades loving and defending this game, the absence of that responsibility actually feels nice right now. It’s a luxury to not have to describe why I love the game to people who were minimally interested in the game back in the 90′s and then dropped off with the last lockout. The longer this goes on, the more I appreciate not staying up until 2 am doing a game recap or cancelling plans with friends on a Thursday because the game is on.

I take no responsibility for this breakup. I lay this entirely at your doorstep, and all the finger pointing, all the blaming and the accusations about who is being unreasonable are melding into this stew of indifference from a fan – a real fan – who is tired of all your bullshit.

To the league, to the teams, to the players, until you can act like grownups and make this right, you can all go fuck yourselves. Don’t call me with an update. Call me when there’s real hockey to watch, and call me grovelling. You’ve got some explaining to do.